Smoking brisket is simple but time consuming – find the brisket you're going to smoke, buy it, rub it if you choose, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Get a least two good thermometers! Get you fuel source(s), get your chips, chunks or other smoke woods, tongs gloves and meat containers.
Buying a good brisket
If your anything like me the only brisket you've ever purchased before you started smoking meat was a corned beef brisket for Saint Patrick’s Day. Well that is a brisket but it’s not what we’re looking for right now, that is “corned” or brined. If you would like to make corned beef for brisket check out my pastrami page. Right now we are looking for a fresh brisket because we are going to make smoke brisket. Buy a packer brisket (see picture below) that’s about 8 to 10 pounds. A bigger brisket will also work, but it will take longer to smoke.
Look for a brisket that has a fat cap about 1/4 to 1/3" across the top. Try to find one that has a more rounded point, rather than a sharply pointed point and a thick layer of fat running all across the top.
Night before you plan to smoke brisket generously apply a good rub on your brisket, wrap it in clear wrap, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. This will allow the seasoning to work into the meat. You don’t need a fancy rub just a bit of salt and pepper and maybe a little garlic powder will work fine. I think it’s best to keep it simple and find out what You like best as you go along. For more information about rubs download Deejay’s Book of Rubs from the Herbs and Spice Downloads page.
Okay your now your ready to smoke meat. Take your brisket out of the refrigerator set it on the counter and go start your fire. Once your fire has leveled off at around 230-250° F, put the brisket in the smoker, fat side up or fat side down it’s up to you (there are arguments about which is best all the time) and leave it. I like to start with the fat cap up and flip mine from time to time so I can spritz the top and bottom equally with apple juice – just my preference.
Always check temperature of the smoked brisket in the FLAT, not the point. The point will usually become tender before the flat, it’s thinner! Don’t be fooled by checking the wrong end! Every hour or so I like to spray the brisket with apple juice, apple juice and wine or my favorite marinate.
So how long does it take to smoke a brisket?
The brisket is ready for slicing when the internal temperature is between 185° F and for pulling when the internal temperature is about 200° to 205° F.
When holding a slice of smoked brisket in you hand it should pull apart with a slight tug,. That's really good brisket! The guideline for brisket is about 1-1/2 hours per pound at 225°-250° F, but that is only a guide and rarely works out that way because of the smoking plateau (see below).
The Smoking Plateau - after many hours of smoking the brisket it has reached a temperature of around 151º F and gets stuck at that temperature - sometimes for hours on end. This is normal for briskets and butts so don’t worry. Just wait it out - don’t change anything! While this is happing the heat is slowly breaking down the tough connective tissues in the meat and making it tender and delicious! I’ve seen briskets stick at this temperature or slightly higher for up to 4 hours without change!
Once again the temperature will finally start to rise again very slowly over the next several hours. I like to smoke my brisket to around 160° -165° F internally without wrapping, then finish my brisket by wrapping it in multiple layers of plastic wrap then foil until the internal temperature is between 200° to 205° F.
About plastic wrap – I don’t like to use Saran Wrap it has a strong odor. I buy the restaurant grade plastic wrap from BJ’s or Sam’s club. It has no odor and come in long, wide rolls of 3,000 feet. It’ll seal your smoked meats so none of the juices can escape! These plastic wraps will take temperatures up to 250ºF without melting but they will shrink around the meat holding in moisture – there is a reason chefs choose this stuff! The foil is just to catch anything that may have escaped any areas I didn’t seal completely.
Next, leave it in the plastic wrap and foil and let it rest wrapped in towels in a cooler for a few hours. This really makes it juicy and tender. Many purists object to this procedure. After an hour or so you will have much more meat juice, “au jus” to add to your dipping sauce or just pour over the slices before serving!
Preparing to de-fat the Au Jus’
After a few hours in the cooler, open your brisket in a large bowl. Pour the smoked brisket juices into the bowl and throw it into the refrigerator for about 15 to 30 minutes or you can wait until morning. The fat and meat juices will separate. The juices will jell and the fat will rise to the top and become a hard orange crust. With a paper towel lightly wipe the fat off – it will stick to the paper towel if it’s still soft or if you waited until morning you can lift off the harden fat to remove it.
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